Learning The Design Process: ‘Operation’ Games

John Spinello and his 1964 prototype of the Operation Game (source: NY Daily News, 2014)

Many of us remember the classic ‘Operation Game’, which was originally developed by a design technology student at the University of Illinois in 1964. He later sold the design to Milton Bradley, for the tidy sum of $500 (Huffington Post, 2014).  The game has proven very popular over the years, with at least $40 million in sales and many new editions released in the 50+ years since its invention.

With the fabrication tools available to students in the Bryn Mawr School’s newly expanded Innovation Lab, seventh graders are currently designing and creating prototypes of their own 2016 editions of the game.

The game boards are being designed in Adobe Illustrator, and are then brought to life with a laser cutter.  The bones (candies, jewelry, or other shapes, depending on the chosen theme) are designed by each student in TinkerCAD and then 3D printed.

Student holds up her laser-cut game board, preparing to design the electronic component of her game.

Finally, students must design the circuitry for their game boards to allow the sounds and lights to be triggered when a player loses her steady hand and accidentally closes the circuit with her tweezers.  A Makey Makey allows a USB connection to a computer, providing both a power supply and the ability to make unique sounds for each location on the game board using MIT’s block programming language, Scratch.

Source: http://www.teachengineering.org

While similar projects have been done by students at other schools, Bryn Mawr students gained experience unique to their classes by combining their 3D printing, Scratch, and Makey Makey knowledge with the added innovations of using a laser cutter and copper tape to streamline the design of the game board.  Additionally, students have been documenting their progression through the Engineering Design Process in online journals, noting design challenges and revisions along the way.



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